based in melbourne, australia, sophie welsh is a postgraduate journalism student with a bachelors degree in science. her interests include politics, current events, and pop culture.

SHINE ON: High school students rally for renewables

SHINE ON: High school students rally for renewables

High school students from all over Victoria gathered at the State Library on Thursday, protesting against the Federal Government’s inaction on climate change.

The students carried signs reading ‘Stop Adani‘ and ‘renewables now’, communicating their concerns about the future of Australian energy.

Frustrated by the Australian Government’s lack of commitment to combatting climate change, these students have taken matters into their own hands.

Representatives from each school took it in turns to publicly declare how their school plans to reduce its carbon imprint, often reading their pledges from the backs of school exercise books.

“We’ve already implemented composting,” a student from Melbourne Girls’ College said. “Now we’re pushing for solar panels.”

Students from Mount Ridley College declared the lofty goal of taking their school from “zero per cent climate change awareness, to 100 per cent renewable energy”.

The protest formed a part of the ‘Switched On Schools’ program, a two-day summit coordinated by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition(AYCC).

The program aims to educate high school students on the impacts of climate change on themselves and their communities.

The AYCC’s Schools Program Director Lauren Sykes said that youth activism is a vital part of the fight against climate change.

“Young people are powerful,” she said. “We can fight back against the power and the politics.”

“Our program is about giving high school students the skills and tools they need to lead action, and also realising the power to effect change in their communities. We know that it’s our future at stake.”

This message was evident during the protest, with students embracing their responsibility to enact change.

“We have the power,” a student from Templestowe College said to the crowd. ‘You have the power.”

“We are the first generation of middle class Australians to feel the effects of climate change,” students from Williamstown High School said. “Our actions impact our climate.”

“Our inaction on climate change is one of the biggest threats to our existence,” students from Mosul College said.

The ‘Switched On Schools’ program sees the AYCC reach out to schools, working with participants to educate the school community and work with school faculties to introduce sustainability measures into their school.

Students from Northcote High School have already received support from their school principal, vowing to be using 100 per cent renewable energy by the end of 2017.

“We’re going to use new technology to fight global warming,” the students said. “We’re going to save our planet, save our people and save humanity.”

Students chanting for climate justice at the protest.

The protest follows the Victorian Government’s recent declaration of their renewable energy target, and the South Australian Government’s commitment to the Port Augusta solar thermal plant.

“We’re calling on our Federal Government to follow [Victoria and South Australia’s] lead,” Ms Sykes said.

“They’re not doing enough on climate change, and we really want them to be transitioning towards renewable energy like South Australia and Victoria are.”

The rally culminated in a videoed pledge to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, asking him to reconsider Australia’s reliance on coal power.

A recorded message for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. 

CEO of the Climate Council, Amanda McKenzie, echoed the protest’s message.

“Australia’s climate policy isn’t working,” she said. “Already in 2017, we’ve seen the second mass coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as record-breaking summer heat and rainfall across the nation.”

“This is an urgent and critical issue that has been left to languish for years.”

Both the Prime Minister and the Federal Minister for Energy and the Environment declined to comment on the protest.

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